downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 Issue 39 | February 9 -15, 2007

Fireworks for Lunar New Year

With the beginning of the Lunar New Year just a week away, Chinatown is preparing for its biggest celebration yet to welcome in the year of the pig, 4704.

The Chinese New Year, based on a traditional lunar calendar, officially begins on Feb. 18 and lasts through March 4. Each of the 15 days is marked by different customs and many local organizations have planned events to honor this time of celebration and new beginnings.

The Museum of Chinese in the Americas is hosting a series of walking tours around Chinatown to educate people about the traditions associated with the New Year.

MoCA docents with personal or family roots in Chinatown will lead the tours. “The tour focuses on preparations for the New Year,” said a MoCA. official. “We will explain why eating fish is considered good luck, why we decorate with the color red and other traditions we use to ring in the New Year.”

Though tours on New Year’s Eve, Feb. 17, are already booked, spots are still available for tours on Sat., Feb. 10, and Sunday, Feb. 11 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, $8 for MoCA members and free for children 5 and under. Advanced reservations are required and can be made by calling 212-619-4785.

The museum is also hosting its fourth annual flower market in Columbus Park, on Mulberry St. between Worth and Bayard Sts. The market will be held Friday, Feb. 16, from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is free to the public.

The market will be held in a heated tent and will feature artist booths and performances by a Chinese American magician, a pop singer performing in Cantonese, lion dancers and more, said William Dao, the museum’s spokesperson.

There will also be a wide variety of flowers on display and available for purchase that are traditionally used to decorate one’s home for the New Year, including plum blossoms to bring luck and kumquats to represent prosperity.

More than 150,000 people visited the flower market last year.

On the first day of the New Year, Feb. 18, there will be a Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Chatham Square, at the intersection of Bowery and E. Broadway. The festival is hosted by the Better Chinatown Society and admission is free.

The firecracker ceremony is intended to ward off evil spirits. The tradition dates back to an ancient Chinese myth, in which a dragon was said to have attacked a village but was scared off by villagers making loud noises and waving fire.

A dozen lion, dragon and unicorn dance troupes will march through Chinatown’s main streets.

On the evening of Feb. 18, the festivities will continue with the Lunar New Year Fireworks Spectacular presented by the Chinatown Partnership. The show will begin at 7 p.m. in Columbus Park and according to the Partnership, it will be the first time there will be a fireworks display (as opposed to just firecrackers) for Chinatown’s Lunar New Year celebrations.

The biggest event to welcome in the Chinese New Year is the eighth annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival, also presented by the Better Chinatown Society.

The parade begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the intersection of Mott and Hester Sts. and will travel down Mott St. to E. Broadway, along Allen and Grand Sts., and will finish at the intersection of Chrystie and Canal Sts.

With an expected crowd of over 400,000 participants and spectators, the parade will feature elaborate floats, marching bands, lion and dragon dances, musicians, magicians, acrobats and processions by local organizations.

The parade is expected to conclude at 3:00 p.m., at which time an outdoor cultural festival will take place on Bayard St. featuring more performances by musicians, dancers and martial artists. There will also be the pig races for the first time, in honor of the year of the pig, on Hester St. following the parade.

-- Brooke Edwards

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